A Debonair Drink for the Modern Gent & Lady: The Gin Martini
We know you’ve been waiting with baited breath for the return of Jon Rich, In the Midfield’s Men’s Lifestyle Editor. He’s a busy, international man of mystery. The holiday party circuit has been keeping him occupied, but he managed to whip-up a stellar follow-up to his Ode to Gin piece from last month. And, he references 007 in this article, which makes us adore him and gin even more. Sit back, stir your drink and salivate over his lesson on the gin martini:
Now that you’ve had a mini crash course on the wonders of gin, it’s time to put that knowledge to use and make the classic gin martini. While it’s simple to make, it’s also very easy to screw up, so let me provide some guidance.
First, you’ll need the following basic bartender tools: shaker, bar stool (metal, squiggly cocktail stirrer), jigger (funny looking measuring cups), and a metal cocktail strainer. However, just like any craft, there are always more cool things to play with, like muddlers, citrus juicers, glassware, special cocktail knives, ice molds etc. For now, let’s just keep it simple.
Onto the drink - the martini’s ingredients are traditionally gin or vodka, dry or white vermouth, ice and usually a garnish of a lemon twist or olives.
So, how much (if any) vermouth? If you’re going to abide by Winston Churchill’s rules, removing the vermouth will make the drink impeccably crisp and elegantly refreshing. However, a touch of vermouth never hurt anyone. While the general rule is that you should add a lot less vermouth than you think should be in there (read: a generous drop), most good barkeeps will simply pour a tiny amount into the glass, swirl it around and dump it out, creating what’s known as the “vermouth wash” (fun bar fact: the same is often done with absinthe). If you’re going to add vermouth, exercise some restraint because just a little too much will completely throw off the delicate balance of the martini’s other ingredients. Generally, I prefer Dolin Dry Vermouth. It’s slightly more expensive than the standard Martini & Rossi or Noilly Pratt, but far better.
Okay, the other burning question: shaken or stirred? Although another famous Brit, James Bond, drank his martinis “shaken, not stirred,” a proper one is, get ready for it…stirred, not shaken. But, don’t think that 007 preferred his martinis that way simply because of Sean Connery’s enthralling, Scottish pronunciation of the word “stirred” as “shtirred.” Shaking and stirring affect the drink’s characteristics in different ways. Shaking adds air and more rapidly dilutes cocktails with the ice than stirring does. It is rumored that for these reasons, 007 preferred shaken martinis because they were less alcoholic than stirred ones, allowing him to keep his wits when taking out the bad guys. This does make sense, since most of 007’s exploits included high-speed (and very expensive) car chases following his martini consumption. However, unless your Friday night involves whipping your Aston Martin around treacherous cliff-side roads in Monte Carlo, order your martini stirred.
As for your drink’s garnish, it’s usually olives or a lemon twist. This is largely based on personal preference. If you’re in the mood for something saltier and brinier, go with olives. If you want a little hint of bitter lemon, go for the twist. I will say that if you’re drinking a gin martini, you’re already getting a lot of floral, citrus and herbal notes, so olives will provide a nice balance. On a side note, I usually like a lemon twist in vodka martinis, which are naturally far more neutrally flavored, and more amenable to the sharp, bitterness of citrus. Again, listen to your palate.
Speaking of olives, you may want a dirty martini, which is just like a regular martini, but with some added olive brine added to the shaker before mixing, and then a garnish of more olives. Be careful though because with too much, your martini could go from dirty to ocean in no time.
Feeling okay so far? Good, let’s make the drink:
In a shaker, combine 2 oz. gin (my pick: Greenhook Ginsmith), ice, vermouth (optional) and olive juice (optional for dirty).
First, fill the shaker about halfway with cubed or cracked ice. Bartender’s tip: cracking ice is ideal for stirring drinks, as it creates more surface area and makes it easier to stir. Place an ice cube in your palm. With your other hand, take the bar stool (long, squiggly spoon) and hold it towards the bottom for leverage. Then, aim and whack the ice cube straight on with enough force to, you guessed it, crack that sucker. Repeat.
If you want vermouth, pour not even a capful into the shaker. If you want even less, try the vermouth wash: drop some vermouth into the martini glass, and then turn it upside down with a rotating twist, spilling out the excess vermouth. Set aside.
To stir the contents, you want the squiggly part of the bar stool to do the work for you. Hold the middle of the handle almost like a pencil or chopstick. As best you can, rotate the bar stool along the outer edges of the shaker, as if you’re mixing batter in a bowl with a wooden spoon. It’s important to not hold the bar stool rigidly, but to instead allow it to twist around in your grip while you gently guide it around. You’re now probably wondering, how many stirs? Bartenders will tell you that you need at least 50 rotations, which is a pretty good estimate. Otherwise, you know it’s good to go when the outside of the shaker is equally cold to the touch. When you reach that point, add in a few more rotations for good measure.
After you’ve stirred enough, cover the top of the shaker either with its own strainer or a metal mesh strainer and pour your beverage into the glass and garnish. If you’re having your drink with a twist, carefully slice off some rind from a lemon, drag it around the rim of the glass a couple of times, and either drop it on top or place it on the edge of your glass.